The United States has treaties with Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Japan that ensure the protection of migratory birds in North America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the primary responsibility for protecting migratory bird species in the United States, and keeping track of their status is an important part of that responsibility. For migratory game birds like ducks and doves, that includes monitoring harvest to ensure that our hunting regulations are appropriate for the current status of those species.
The United States has treaties with Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Japan that ensure the protection of migratory birds in North America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has primary responsibility for protecting migratory bird species in the United States, and keeping track of their status is an important part of that responsibility. For migratory game birds like ducks and doves, that includes monitoring harvest to ensure that our hunting regulations are appropriate for the current status of those species.
Many species of migratory birds are harvested in the United States, including ducks, geese, doves, band-tailed pigeons, American woodcock, sandhill cranes, snipe, coots, gallinules, and some species of rails. The Harvest Information Program (HIP) was created to monitor the harvest of these species each year. Under this program, hunters must be HIP-registered in each state in which they hunt migratory birds. You can get more information on the HIP by going to http://www.fws.gov/hip. HIP registration information is forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Migratory Bird Management. Based on answers to the questions asked during the HIP registration process, we select samples of hunters to participate in our 5 Migratory Bird Harvest Surveys. These 5 surveys are: waterfowl (ducks, geese, brant, and sea ducks), doves (mourning doves, white-winged doves, and band-tailed pigeons), American woodcock, sandhill crane, and other webless species (snipe, coot, rail, and gallinules). Hunters selected to participate in a survey are sent a survey form as close to the beginning of the hunting season as possible, so that can they record their hunting experiences throughout the season. We keep sampling hunters approximately twice each month during the hunting season, as we receive additional HIP registration information. We need harvest reports from as many survey participants as possible, so after the hunting season is over we send reminders to sampled hunters who have not responded. Currently survey response rates are about 60% for all Migratory Bird Harvest Surveys. If you are a survey participant and you need more space to record all of your hunting trips, you can order more Migratory Bird Harvest Survey forms by going to https://migbirdapps.fws.gov/hipweb/.
The Migratory Bird Harvest Surveys provide information on how many birds of each species or species-group are killed. Parts Collection Surveys provide additional important biological information on the harvest. There are 3 Parts Collection Surveys: waterfowl, mourning dove, and American woodcock. The waterfowl Parts Collection Survey is used to determine the species, age, and sex composition of the waterfowl harvest. Hunters selected to participate in this survey are asked to send us a wing from every duck they shoot and the tail feathers and wing tips from every goose they shoot throughout the hunting season. Biologists can identify the species, age, and for most species the sex of the bird from these parts. The species composition of the duck and goose harvest is very important for sound management, because it tells us how many of each species are harvested. The age and sex information provide us indicators of productivity; the more productive a population is, the greater the proportion of young in the harvest that year. These data are used in many population models and management strategies to help set appropriate hunting regulations. The mourning dove Parts Collection Survey is used to determine the age composition of the dove harvest, and the woodcock Parts Collection Survey is used to determine the age and sex composition of the woodcock harvest. Parts Collection Survey participants are selected from respondents to the previous year’s Migratory Bird Harvest Surveys. If a hunter agrees to participate, we send him or her postage-paid envelopes for sending us the requested parts. With the exception of mourning doves, we ask hunters to participate the entire hunting season, so that we are sure to estimate the harvest of later-migrating birds accurately. About 50% of the hunters we contact agree to participate in this survey, and about 50% of those hunters actually do participate. You can order more Parts Collection Survey envelopes by going to https://migbirdapps.fws.gov/hipweb/.
To find out more about how we keep track of the status of migratory birds, including the use of population surveys and banding data, please visit the Flyways.us site http://flyways.us
April 11, 2012